To make up for obviously not posting anime moments weekly, here’s an anime episode for the whole month. More specifically, it’s about 2 particular moments from the episode, neither of which I wanted to miss out on talking about. There are spoilers for Mai-HiME, and if you haven’t seen it, this isn’t a show you want to be spoiled on, though I wouldn’t say anything truly big has happened at this point compared to the episodes that come later.
Much like Gurren Lagann, Mai-HiME sort of has two climaxes – one in episode 15 and one in episode 26. The first climax takes out the first major villains in the series, though ultimately the whole villainous force was probably just a thing to push along the set-up part of the story. I’d go so far as to say the whole first 16 episodes are just set up for the stuff that happens later, but extremely well-written set up done in ingenious ways. Therefor, the first climax, while exciting, doesn’t hold all that much weight in light of the act that the overall plot and drama just breeze right by it, barely paying attention to it. However, not wanting to be just a throwaway plot, the first climax makes a point to be doubly exciting and fun.
During episode 14, the school that the HiME all attend has been sealed off from the mainland on it’s island by the evil corporation and the school is being essentially shaken-down in search for HiME. Emotional shit happens, people panic, bad guys are fought, and by the episodes end, the seven known HiME (and the eighth that only the viewer knows about) converge in a cave with the school headmaster who commands them. Cue episode 15.
First things first, this episode begins in a fucking underground chamber. It can’t just be called a cave really, it’s a huge chamber with an epic cliff over a lake which the 7 HiME ride into on gondolas driven by fucking secret agents. There is a giant grapevine-shaped mesh of TV/computer monitors hanging from the ceiling like something right out of X or Lain and the headmaster is standing on the cliff saying ‘Welcome, HiME.’ In other words, it’s fucking awesome. The HiME are told all the technical details of what the fuck is going on, who they have to kill, how long they have to do it before a killer satellite blows them all to smithereens, and why they are the only hope. The heat is on, and the HiME all agree to fight. That’s when we get the first of the episode’s insanely awesome scenes.
An epic J-pop song starts playing and each of the girls runs down the cliff into – no joke, separate elevators. Like, those military elevators with the red flashing lights and wire mesh doors. As they go up, we hear the mission briefing where they are to divide into teams and take out different enemies. Each of them arrives at a fucking launch platform, all on different parts of the island. Each of the platforms is unique – one is a helicopter platform, one is a launch bay, one is one of those things like runners use in the Olympics to take off, etc. Each of the girls launches into action.
Kuga lands right in between three soldiers and proceeds to knock all of them out of commission with a series of kicks. Mikoto lands with her huge sword, does her usual spinning to pick up speed, and then chops a fucking tank in half. The sensei rides out and yells “SPIRARU DORIRU!!!!” Before shooting her Child right through a battleship which proceeds to combust and explode (likely killing many). From then on, the episode continues as normal, but this whole scene was just purely magical, because it was so totally Mai-HiME.
The basis of Mai-HiME is that it takes every single cliche of every anime genre and trope and purposefully uses all of them – not parodically, but perfectly seriously in telling it’s story. However, it uses them all so well that the show is undoubtedly great, homage or otherwise. It is to modern anime as a whole what Gurren Lagann is to mecha anime and handled easily as well. A scene like this could only be done perfectly straight-faced in a show like Mai-HiME without coming across as stupid or hilarious – just a part of the story. The pop song playing over all of it was definitely the fucking icing on the cake.
The episode doesn’t end there, though, which actually leads me to the episode’s problem. If there is one place that Mai-HiME is especially deserving of praise, it is in pacing and the care given to presentation, but the two episodes where the pacing definitely falters are the two climaxes. The staff of Mai-HiME knows what it takes to make a good story, but they always seem to be a little confused about what makes a good fight. The show’s fights are certainly flashy, having epic imagery, huge monsters, combat of all types, and the occasional cheese factor. However, they almost always fail to be very entertaining. The fights kind of seem like they are only there because they need to be, but there wasn’t care and love put into them like the rest of the show. I feel like the creators only made sure the elements of a great fight were there without organizing them into something well-presented. In something like a climax, where action scenes are aplenty, weak combat can be a huge flaw.
In this episode it is. The exciting or action-packed scenes are shortened and rushed by the plot’s desire to progress. As a result, the would-be epic scene of Mai taking down a space satellite after nearly dying is cut much too short and lacks excitement. It is especially upsetting because they probably could have detracted from some of the episode’s weaker action parts to give more time to Mai. They also put a little too much focus on Tate and Shiho, who were lamenting over their standing as bystanders. Their parts in the episode were hideously placed to cut into the excitement – had they been placed earlier in the episode or in the previous episode, the momentum could have been held much better.
Alas, in spite of the failed potential of Mai’s epic scene, everything wraps up and there is a particularly nice scene at the ending. Miyu and Alyssa have failed their plan to usher in the golden age (which is, by the way, an uber-McGuffin) and the death of Alyssa’s Child means her father has been erased from existence. The pair are trying to escape from the mountain, but when Miyu leaves Alyssa for a mere second she is poisoned by an underling who was told to eliminate them. There is an extremely satisfying moment of Miyu ramming her blade arm through the man’s chest and then she scoops up Alyssa. The song Alyssa always sings (one of those definitively Kajiura songs) plays in the background and there is some very emotional dialogue and final characterizations for the two who have become quite memorable and sympathetic. Miyu carries Alyssa into the pond and, for some reason, they manage to freeze into a giant crystal for eternity… or something, anyway it’s pretty and cute and I like it.
So yeah, this was a very nice episode, and I typed this post extraordinarily fast. So yay for that. Mai-HiME is shaping up every bit as nicely as I remember and I feel it deserves to have a very in-depth post done upon completion.